For this week’s edition of Song Saturday, we’re looking back at one of No Doubt’s most cherished tracks and second single from Return of Saturn, “Simple Kind of Life”.
The song was written alone by Gwen in a last minute recording session in 1999 while writing the band’s fourth studio album. After spending the day writing with Tony, Gwen penned “Simple Kind of Life” during a reported “PMS moment.” The song was recorded the following Monday after no rehearsals. According to Wikipedia, Adrian’s “drum parts were mixed through low fidelity filters to get the feel of a lo-fi power ballad.” The song was produced by Glen Ballard, recorded by Alain Johannes and mixed by Jack Joseph Puig.
Gwen’s lyrics tell her story of striving for a “simple kind of life” while finding herself torn between her wanting to start a family and her career commitments. Gwen “describes her relationship [with now-husband Gavin] as unhealthy because of this disparity, comparing herself to “a sick domestic abuser looking for a fight. She ultimately decides that settling down is just a fantasy for her since her freedom and independence is more important for her.” The memorable line in the song “I always thought I’d be a mom” now draws a huge response from the crowd (as well as a smile from Gwen) considering how much her life has changed since writing the song when “Simple Kind of Life” is performed live.
“Simple Kind of Life” received positive reviews from both fans and critics alike and peaked at #38 on the Billboard Hot 100. The track also hit the #14 spot on Billboard’s Alternative Songs and #27 on the Canadian RPM Rock Chart. While it became the most successful single from Return of Saturn for the band, it failed to make an impact internationally. The single was released on tape, CD and vinyl and some versions included the unreleased B-sides “Full Circle”, “Cellophane Boy”, “Beauty Contest” and “Under Construction” which were all later released on Everything In Time in 2003.
The memorable music video was directed by longtime friend and collaborator Sophie Muller. Gwen said that Sophie was staying at her house when writing “Simple Kind of Life” and the ideas for the video came directly from the lyrics. Sophie took the time to design storyboards for the band to visualize the video with her before filming began. No Doubt acted alongside props during the video shoot with Sophie on the side suggesting ideas. In the original version, Gwen’s “dream sequence” (where she’s singing topless) was supposed to have her “over a sea of orange juice” but was changed based off of her performance. The video didn’t have a strong impact on television and debuted at #7 on MTV’s Total Request Live on April 24, 2000.
No Doubt also appeared in Melody Maker magazine all dressed up in matching wedding attire while promoting the video.
“Simple Kind of Life” made it’s live debut in 1999 on the band’s west coast club tour. No Doubt still continue to include the special track (and sometimes acoustic) on their tours since. Gwen still refers to it as one of her favorite songs and is continues to come up as one the fans most cherished singles.
No Doubt also did several notable televised performances of the song including a stop on Late Night with David Letterman and the Teen Choice Awards.